Solons want MTRCB’s mandate expanded amid challenges of modern times

By Leonel Abasola

November 15, 2023, 7:50 pm

MANILA – Senators have emphasized the need to amend the Movie Television Regulatory and Classification Board (MTRCB) charter to give it more power to block inappropriate contents on video streaming platforms that do not fit the moral values of Filipinos.

During the Senate plenary debates on MTRCB’s budget on Tuesday, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said MTRCB is operating on “a relatively old law” and therefore “will not be able to address the challenges of the modern times and digital age.”

Responding to Senator Chiz Escudero’s inquiry on the MTRCB’s mandate, Estrada said the MTRCB could only ban subject films or movies from public showing in theaters and television under Presidential Decree 1986, which created the MTRCB, and Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act.

Escudero said MTRCB has no power to prohibit X-rated films from public exhibition on the internet.

He also pointed out that it is not within the competence of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to ascertain that certain contents or sites should not be allowed.

"The point I am driving at is that it is not within the core competence of the DICT and I think at some point in time the MTRCB should be brought into the picture either via the bill of Senator (Robinhood) Padilla or by an amendment to the law," Escudero said.

MTRCB Chairperson Lala Sotto-Antonio said with its limited jurisdiction, the agency can only make endorsements while it is the DICT or the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) which have the power to order a takedown of inappropriate content.

There are five proposals pending in the upper chamber, including Senate Bill No. 1940 or the MTRCB Act of 2023 authored by Padilla, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media.

Padilla stressed the need for the MTRCB to "address the changing demands of our time."

Meanwhile, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano urged the MTRCB to conduct a study on how it can ensure that Filipino values are maintained in digital content.

He said with the widespread use of the internet, the MTRCB's role in protecting young viewers from indecent content has decreased.

Cayetano urged the MTRCB to form a research arm that will study how it can expand its mandate under the law to cover various digital platforms, including Netflix.

"Since nakikita ko sa MTRCB y'ung heart na maging guardian ng values ng ating youth ngayon (Since MTRCB has the role of guardian of values of our youth), let me encourage MTRCB to look at contemporary Filipino values that we can agree on, and [determine] if they (digital platforms) are allowed na kahit ano pwedeng ipakita (whatever they want to see)," he said.

Cayetano clarified that the aim is not to censor but to ensure that young Filipinos do not consume content that is violent, lewd, or against Filipino morals, especially in today's "much more confusing time" in which illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases have become rampant.

"It's not more of censorship, but more of giving the young people the right ideas and information, and then they can make their own choices later on," he said.

He said putting in PHP10 million to PHP15 million for the proposed research "will go a long way" in achieving this objective.

Estrada said he is certain that the MTRCB “will seriously consider the valid suggestions” of the senators. (PNA)